From the President's Desk: Returning safely to campus on February 28

President Flanagan shares details for students and employees who are preparing to return to in-person activities.

Trees covered in snow

At the end of February, we will welcome students back to U of A campuses for the rest of winter term. I am looking forward to February 28, when the courses that were originally scheduled to be in-person for the Winter 2022 semester will resume in-person. We will also welcome employees who are required to work in-person to ensure operational delivery who will also return to campus. 

We have been preparing for this resumption of campus activities for several weeks. This week, we also heard from the Government of Alberta. Across the province a new three-step plan to lift current public health measures was introduced with Step 1 in effect as of February 9. Following this announcement, the Departments of Advanced Education and Health provided additional guidance to post-secondary institutions. 

Here are details for returning to campus safely:

No changes to mask requirements on campus

To comply with City of Edmonton bylaws and to help us transition back to full capacity in-person activities over the next couple of months, there will be no immediate changes to our masking safety measure. Masks will continue to be required in all university indoor shared spaces. We will continue to watch provincial, municipal and public health expert updates as their planned steps move ahead. 

High vaccination rates

The shared vaccination efforts of our community over the past two semesters has been incredible. Coming back to campus on February 28, over 97% of our community is fully vaccinated and 3% hold U of A vaccination exemptions. In addition, over the past two semesters we’ve seen very few cases and no outbreaks on our campuses. 

In the coming weeks, the U of A will continue to track public health indicators, and guidelines from across all levels of government to respond as needed in support of our community’s health.

Stay home when you are unwell

Despite a return to in-person activities, I urge all of you to take care of your own health and that of your friends and colleagues. Those who test positive for COVID-19 or are sick with a core symptom (fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, sore throat or runny nose) are required to isolate. Upon return to in-person activities on February 28, those on our campuses should continue to stay home when unwell to keep our community safe. Supports are available for those who need to stay home.

Work from home

All employees who are required in person for Feb. 28 have received notice or their reminder already. Employees who have not yet received notice of a return to campus will continue to work remotely. If hospitalizations continue to trend down, the Government of Alberta will lift the provincial work from home measure on March 1. At that time, faculty and unit administrative staff may begin returning to campus according to their unit’s return to campus planning. Employees will be notified by their supervisor in advance of when they will be required to return.

The U of A's Work From Home Program is independent of the provincial and university work from home safety measures. The program will continue to be offered to university employees with approvals determined by their supervisors. Eligible employees may continue to apply to the program at any time.

Campus services

The U of A campuses offer a unique variety of services and activities. Additional guidance from specific campus services including Dining Services, Campus & Community Recreation and Residence Services, will be communicated to their communities as needed.

Accommodations are available

Accommodations are available for protected grounds, including those who are immunocompromised. Students can also access the supports and advice they need in their transition back to in-person semester through the Student Service Centre. Instructors can discuss supports with their supervisor, chair or designated faculty position.

I know that this is a difficult time for everyone as we continue to juggle the changing circumstances around COVID-19 on all aspects of our lives. Thank you for your patience and continued efforts to ensure the safety of our community. We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary. I am looking forward to our previously planned return to campus and welcoming you back soon!

Bill Flanagan
President and Vice-chancellor